Recently, there was a great interview with Christy Kendall-Cottrell on "Talking Motorcycles With Barry Boone." Normally, I don't comment on the interviews on our favorite shows. Normally, there isn't any need... you can just sit back, listen, and enjoy!
This interview (part of a three-part series) really hit home, though.
Chew and I have tried, for quite some time, to help people understand the impact that social media has upon The Sport.
Now, the internet can be a fantastic thing. It can, also, be detrimental. For example, we set up this pair of lists:
1. Social media gives us a "Live Feed" from racers and events. It allows us to share and receive information, instantly. There is no longer any need to wait for a week, until a magazine comes out. We can know, as it happens, where our favorite riders placed... see what the weather and track conditions were like... witness awesome passes and unbelievable saves... and get a glimpse of the podium.
2. The internet allows us to keep updated on the conditions of our injured riders. It also allows us to share our well-wishes, prayers, and support to the injured and their families. In serious cases, auctions, fundraisers, and donations to aid the riders come from all over the country, demonstrating the strength of the flat track family bond.
3. The internet can assist riders, series, and promoters in securing sponsorship. By introducing potential sponsors to a rider's popularity, or by showing a possible contributor how exciting the sport is, we can provide an avenue for financial backing.
4. Social media can help fans get to know the racers as people. A stronger personal connection helps build a stronger support and enjoyment of the sport. It makes it PERSONAL, and gives a face to those fast-moving helmets.
5. Sites like Facebook and Twitter allow us to celebrate the big accomplishments in each other's lives... births, marriages, graduations, etc... and stay up-to-date on changes in their racing career (obttaining a new bike, or switching teams, for instance).
6. Social media allows racers to provide their sponsors and fans with INSTANT race reports. This gives their audience a play-by-play, quickly delivered, and almost live-timing view of the day's events, from their eyes.
1. The same "Live Feed" that gives us our information has been known to spread FALSE information. Rumors and opinions are transferred and received as "facts." Someone may be accused of dirty riding, after an innocent racing incident. Another person may hurry to release the podium line up, only to find out a rider was DQ'd, or that they printed the wrong finish order. It also allows people to post CORRECT information, that is misinterpreted in such a way that it has unintended circumstances... for instance, a post that states "It's raining" may convince some people not to make the trip to the track. In return, when the drizzle stops and the track is prepped, it turns out to be a fantastic racing surface.
2. Details of injuries or fatalities have been released online, before family members have had the opportunity to be properly informed. In other situations, a rider has wished to keep their less severe injuries "hush-hush," out of concern that an opponent might use that information to gain an upper hand, in another race. Still other reports, poorly worded, may implicate an innocent rider in the fallen rider's injuries, resulting in unwarranted damage to their reputation.
3. The internet can destroy the opportunity for sponsorship, in some cases. If a potential contributor goes online and sees people complaining about an "inept" promoter, "lousy" track, low fan turn out, or "dying sport," they are bound to reconsider their investment. Likewise, if a search of that rider's social networks shows a tendency to post profanity, drinking or drug-related comments, poor sportsmanship-like conversations, or such... you've lost their backing.
4. Racers who post off-color humor, pictures of "partying behavior," obscenities, excessive slang, constant complaints and negativity, and such WILL destroy their desired fan base. However, even seemingly innocent opinions on "touchy" subjects (politics, for instance) can cause potential fans and sponsors to turn away. As Barry and Christy mentioned on the show, a rider is better off with two social pages... on personal, one race-related. Even then, you never know who is reading what you post.
Consider what could happen if a post becomes widely known... for the wrong reasons. Think about how that may reflect upon your sponsors,crew, series, and the sport in general.
Search engines can turn up comments, years after they were posted. Things you say can (and will) be copied and forwarded. If your thoughts aren't something you would say to a new fan, a potential big time sponsor, your grandmother, or a member of the "big" media, you probably shouldn't post it.
5. While SOME insight into a racer's personal life can boost that desired "personal connection," there are some people who will try to invade their privacy to the point of being obtrusive. Asking a rider about his upcoming wedding is fine. Interviewing his exgirlfriend about HER feelings on the deal is probably a bad idea. A rider has to know how their information is being used, and limit overly personal details from the sensationalists who frequent social networks.
6. The "instant race report" aspect of social media is fantastic, but more and more riders are leaning on this, alone. By not submitting follow-up reports to other sources, they eliminate a large percentage of their audience. Surprising as it may seem, there is still a large number of fans that get all of their information from Forums, non-social networking sites, maazines, and newspapers. Don't neglect them, or you'll lose them.